Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Monday Night Raw - January 28, 2013

I realize Raw generally has a 15 minute overrun and PPVs never go the full three hours, but these three hour Raws feel like I'm watching two PPVs back-to-back. The commercials don't help, especially since WWE has had the same six sponsors since 1989, "it looks so natural, no one can tell, with Just For Men gel!" Even when the show is solid, like last night's was, there's just so much pointless bullshit. In the 90s, at the height of the Attitude Era, Vince McMahon himself once said the ideal time for a wrestling show was 90 minutes. At what WWE and many fans consider their creative peak (this fan excluded), Vince thought the show should be half the length it is now. This format has provided us with longer matches, which is nice, but there's still so much nothing going on, more on that presently.

The show began with CM Punk throwing a temper tantrum over the "Phoenix Screwjob," and he certainly had a legitimate beef, but there was nothing there that couldn't have been accomplished with his superior appearance with The Rock later in the evening. Vince's appearance was unnecessary too, as they could've just promoted the Paul Heyman performance review all night, which they did anyway. The Rock's win has a huge asterisk on it, and that could've been the basis of a good segment, but this boiled down to "I'm the bad guy, I lost, so I'm mad," it was a waste of Punk's historic loss to treat it like any other champion dropping the title.

Randy Orton vs. Antonio Cesaro with The Miz as special guest referee was a good match, maybe even a great match by Orton standards, but it was also pretty dumb. Why is Cesaro constantly getting paired up with Orton only to lose? They let Barrett get a clean win over him a couple weeks ago and those two at least have a long history, this is just doing nothing for Cesaro and really nothing for Orton. I hate when the internet commentariat talks about "burials," and I'm not going to go that far, but this was, fitting with the theme of the night, pointless. Cesaro can't keep talking about how no American can beat him for the US Title when Americans keep beating him in non-title situations. Miz being in this match as guest ref was equally irritating because it continues WWE's bizarre obsession with making their good guys as unlikable as possible. Why am I going to boo Cesaro when Orton and The Miz are the one's who are essentially cheating? I don't want to cheer for those guys if they're going to act like assholes. Miz attacking Cesaro after the fact is even worse, what's the justification for that? He beat you fair and square the night before? Not cool, dude.

Ryback clobbering the Prime Time Players (and Matt Striker for good measure) was fun and inoffensive, but again, pointless. Ryback was featured later in the evening in a much higher profile situation and his entrance there was diminished due to his earlier appearance.

Bo Dallas vs. Wade Barrett was one of my favorite parts of the evening because WWE just doesn't book like this anymore. Typically when a new guy comes in, he's doing jobber squashes or working way down the ladder, but this was the 1-2-3 Kid scenario. Here's a kid coming out of nowhere, has an impressive showing at the Rumble and then gets a big win over the Intercontinental Champion, who also has a lot of momentum going for him. Dallas looked good, Barrett got caught sleeping, you instantly have a new Superstar and a ready-to-go feud.

John Cena vs. Cody Rhodes... not so much. I get it, it's the Year of Cena, but this was, as the Essence of Mustachioed Magnificence said, a "waste of Cody Rhodes." Cody had an awesome showing in the Rumble, is still a part of a major tag team, and the crowd was clearly into the idea of him mixing it up with Goldust, so let's just have John Cena beat him in 20 seconds. BLURG! Here's a list of guys you could've done this with instead:

Big E Langston
Primo
Epico
JTG
Heath Slater
Jinder Mahal
Drew McIntyre
Hunico
David Otunga
Darren Young (had they held off on the Ryback nonsense)
Titus O'Neil (see above)

Would've still let Cena plow through someone and deliver his half-drunk promo where he shit all over Alberto Del Rio and the World Heavyweight Title. Not that the World Title needs any help being irrelevant, but geez, that was just obnoxious for Cena to basically say, "well I'd beat whoever holds that belt (I forget who it is at the moment), but I want the WWE Title." I get what Cena was trying to do, he was trying to sound like Ryu and look for the biggest challenge, face Rock or Punk, one of the two guys that have his number and climb the highest mountain. But instead of making Rock or Punk sound like Mt. Everest, he just made the World Championship scene sound like an anthill.

Cena seems to be devolving on the mic lately and it's quite concerning because he can usually be counted on to deliver the goods when talking SERIOUS BIZNESS like WrestleMania, but this was bad. Not "AJ's making wiener jokes!" bad, but still bad, so it was welcome to have The Shield come out and kick his ass. Then Sheamus's ass. Then Ryback's ass. Though it took a long time to get there, at least someone looked good in this mess of a segment, The Shield.

Kudos to Tensai for being a good sport in the dance-off segment with Brodus Clay, where they found lingerie big enough for him, I'm not sure, but I'm confident it was a table cloth in a former life. I know Vince finds stuff like this funny, we all have our weird things - personally, I don't think there's anything funnier than a dog driving a car - but they also flat-out tell us that they know it sucks and is stupid. Michael Cole wouldn't do that without approval, so it's gotta be considered okay to say these segments are pointless, but that's the worst thing to do here. It's okay to have some stupid fun, but you don't just come out and say "this sucks, we're sorry," HAVE FUN WITH IT! JR would've sold the shit out of this, Cole just encourages us to pick up the remote.

And it's where I turned off the show for the night. Take note, WWE.

I did help their DVR numbers in the final hour or so though, the Big Show segment was perfect and almost (more on that in a bit) the highlight of the night. It did go on a little long, but watching Show manhandle Ricardo Rodriguez while Del Rio was duct taped to the ropes was villainy personified. Alberto made Big Show look like a fool the night before, so Show ruined his existence, and it played out perfectly - you felt Ricardo's physical pain, you sympathized with Del Rio's anguish, and you wanted to see Show get his ass kicked. Take notes, Miz, Orton and Cena: you're supposed to be the guy taped to the rope, not the asshole beating up the defenseless little guy.

Divas... hey, I can fast-forward on DVR, WOO HOO!

CM Punk interrupting The Rock's platitudes is all this story needed. Punk was still pissed, but his points were legit: mocking The Rock's use of "punk ass bitch" in 2013 and insisting that he was giving The Rock a rematch and not the other way around? Great stuff. I also loved his dig that he'd be working house shows and Raw next week, while Rock will be MIA, so they'll just have to do the rematch at Elimination Chamber instead.

I'll be honest: I don't really like The Rock and the novelty has worn off for me because he's a one-trick pony. "Llama's nipple" and "deep fried Twinkie tits" (ugh) worked in 1999 because no one had ever talked like that in wrestling before. It was also acceptable because our comedy was Jackass and the American Pie movies, but tastes have evolved. The Rock's shtick doesn't sync up the cultural zeitgeist, he's Movie 43 when the rest of us have moved onto Silver Linings Playbook, he's Rules of Engagement to CM Punk's Louie. That's not to say I don't think he's good for business or capable of having great, entertaining wrestling matches, I'm just done listening to him talk, he's an unlikable douchebag who shows zero flaws, zero vulnerability, and zero evolution. He's John Cena without the occasional modesty.

One odd thing though: with Cena setting his sights on the WWE Title and Punk vs. Rock set, how are they going to do two Chamber matches? Obviously the World Title will be up for grabs, but they won't do a second one to determine a #1 contender for it, there aren't enough guys in that scene, and as John Cena mentioned, no one gives a shit. Maybe we'll only have one Chamber this year, like only one Cell match at HIAC? That's a good thing.

Hey Sheamus, you just got your ass kicked by The Shield, so go out and kill Damien Sandow in a tables match! Again... utterly pointless. The match was great, I really thought they gelled together, but it was just more filler. If this were the late 90s, this would've been the time for Al Snow vs. Gangrel, but now we have top guys beating almost-could-be-top guys for no reason other than the fact that it's Raw Roulette and we need a tables match. I have no problem with Sandow losing to Sheamus, even after The Shield beatdown, but don't just do it for no reason other than, "well, these guys need something to do." Tell me a story, read to me!

3MB, Zack Ryder, Great Khali and Hornswoggle? Next.

Chris Jericho doing Y2J Classic was fun and in this case, the "randomness" of Raw Roulette was acceptable, forcing Jericho to team with Ziggler against another team with a less-than-bromance relationship was at least a different dynamic to take the feud. Hell No got to do their thing and they held it together better than JeriShowoff did, so picked up the win. Nothing fancy, didn't reinvent the wheel, but it at least made sense.

Finally, we get to the end of the show with Vince McMahon evaluating Paul Heyman and providing evidence that he is behind The Shield, as well as Brad Maddox. The premise was flimsy, I'm still not sure why Vince is back in charge two years after all the shenanigans with HHH, but whatever... wrestling logic. I'm also not sure why Paul Heyman gets evaluated by Vince, I thought he worked for Punk, but again... wrestling logic.

That aside, Heyman was just magnificent here and if even half the roster put half the kind of thought and detail in their character as a Heyman, the stories would write themselves. Heyman acting like a mafia don in the Maddox tape was perfect, him pulling a Shaggy and saying "it wasn't me" made me laugh, and then his begging and pleading with Brock Lesnar felt genuine and made the situation all the more terrifying. Heyman in the corner of the ring saying, "Vince, please get out of the ring. Please get out of the ring," is the kind of stuff that sticks with me as a fan. I'll always remember that, because it felt organic, I slipped away from the idea that I was watching a fake sport and felt Paul Heyman put his professional issues with Vince aside and being genuinely concerned for his well-being. Of course, Heyman's pleas fell on deaf ears as Lesnar F5'd the chairman and "fractured his pelvis," according to WWE.com.

I'm not sure how I feel about it, since it will inevitably lead to Triple H returning to stick up for his papa-in-law, whether that means SummerSlam rematch or HHH pulling a "you're gonna have to face... THE UNDERTAKAH, PLAYA!" remains to be seen, but I'm not eager to go down that road again. HHH vs. Lesnar was massively disappointing and The Undertaker being used as a prop to defend Vince's pelvis doesn't exactly scream "STREAK MATCH," but we shall see.

Overall, Raw needs to be 2 hours. Please.


Way too Early - 01/29/13

Hey, remember that time they tried to make Dolph Ziggler look like Evan Bourne?


Also, do you remember that guy named Evan Bourne?

Monday, January 28, 2013

So much for my happy ending

Over the last 12 hours, the instant reaction from the Royal Rumble has been pretty much what I expected, as it's pretty much the reaction of any PPV when the "it" guy loses or John Cena wins anything; the guy couldn't win a pie-eating contest without pissing people off. There's a pocket of the fanbase that's really upset, as usual, but I'm not going to tell them why they're wrong to feel that way, as that's incredibly stale too, instead, I'm going to make you feel better. This is a different kind of wrestling psychology, so hop on the couch.

Throughout Meltdown #4875, I've seen a lot of people, particularly those within the industry or its immediate boundary, use a common argument: "Hey, IWC guy, WWE doesn't book for you, you're not the mainstream," which was a fair point in 2002, but I don't think it's really relevant anymore. In the age of Twitter, Tumblr, Blogger (yes, some of us still use Blogger, dick), YouTube, Tout (okay, no one uses Tout), Pinterest, Facebook, etc., all wrestling fans are the "Internet Wrestling Community" now. How far they go down the rabbit hole is up to them, but you can't send a wrestling Tweet without being exposed to "those types."

And I don't think it's true that WWE doesn't book for the internet crowd, even the mega nerds like myself. Do they cater to your every whim? No, and when they do, we get Zack Ryder, and that was totally our fault and we should feel bad for it. But perhaps it's time to start looking at booking decisions a little differently?

A tweet from my tag team partner, Jason Mann, got me thinking today:

I enjoy a sporting event more when I can just enjoy the game and not care who wins. Same for wrestling. Is this unusual?

I'm not going to tell you to abandon your favorite wrestlers and just watch the damn show, but WWE isn't booking the 49ers vs. the Ravens, they're taking you on a journey. Their entire model, as it has been throughout the modern era, is to tell you a story, and not all stories have happy endings. In the 80s, that meant Ted DiBiase buying the WWE Title, in the 90s, the nefarious Vince McMahon made his employee's life hell, but now that we're all in on the game, they have to think a little outside the box.

We're all pretty much in agreement that people cheer for whoever they want to nowadays, right? I think Rock vs. Punk is the most evenly divided crowd I've heard since Hulk Hogan vs. The Ultimate Warrior, so you're not cheering for who they "want" you to cheer for. Is it possible that WWE is booking with that in mind? Not every story is about your happy ending, or a happy ending at all. Some of the best stories have total downer endings and if that's how you view CM Punk's historic reign coming to an end, congratulations, you provided WWE with an emotional reaction, which is what they want... and maybe that's okay.

Maybe it's okay to be pissed when your guy loses or the guy you hate wins, that can be healthy. When it becomes ridiculous is when you allow that anger to overshadow a great show, like what's happening with last night's Rumble. It was a fantastic PPV, two solid opening matches, one of the best Rumbles in years and an awesome main event, don't let the fact that the story didn't cater to your specific tastes ruin what was a fun three-hour journey.

And that's not to say there's no such thing as a bad ending, and last night may have provided them, but the difference between WWE and a movie or TV show is the ending might not be when you think it is.

WWE Royal Rumble 2013

I made it home after a week in Cancun with just minutes to spare before the start of the Royal Rumble. Mexico was amazing though, naturally I was a total tourist and bought some lucha masks, I also got to watch some of Raw on Monday with the Spanish announcers. I had always wondered how they handled in-ring promos and such during foreign language broadcasts and the fact they just have some dudes do voice-overs while the wrestlers are talking is awesome. Fuck subtitles, hearing a dude say "me llamo C... M... PUUUUUUAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANK!" is just great.

But I was glad to make it home for the Rumble. 2012 wound up being the least wrestling-oriented year of my life, but I could never skip the Rumble, it's my favorite PPV of the year and the perfect show to help with the blog relaunch and to grab my interest.

I'm not exactly sure why Alberto Del Rio vs. Big Show was another Last Man Standing match, but I'll be damned, they made it work. I suppose WWE was banking on the success of past LMS matches at the event - HHH/HBK and Cena/Umaga - and this match could easily stand alongside those. The gimmick does work for the PPV though since the big match, the Rumble itself, is almost always confined to the ring, so this allows them to get around the arena a bit and show off the set.

Or, throw off the set, as Del Rio was with a sickening chokeslam that sent him off a scaffold and head first into a table. It was gross. Del Rio is really shining as a good guy though, which I didn't think was possible since he has the greatest punch-me-face in the history of the industry, but he's been absolutely wonderful since the inexplicable turn. Meanwhile, Big Show has quietly become the best thing in professional wrestling today, and no, that's not hyperbole. I can't think of anyone that has hit their stride almost 20 years into their career, but Show has just been absolutely perfect over the last few months. He's been consistently great since JeriShow and has proven time and time again that he is the most versatile performer on the roster, fitting into any role.

Tonight's role was to solidify Del Rio's turn, which he did. Del Rio took an ass-whoopin, but after turning the tables and busting out the old duct tape trick, I think the transition is complete. Is WWE heading to Mexico before Mania? Because I'd love to hear that crowd explode for the World Champ.

Okay, I'm sold on Hell No. For the last few months, this whole Kane and Daniel Bryan thing has just seemed like something for these dudes to do while they try to figure something out for them, but they're just so fun together. Sometimes the jokes fall flat, but I have a hard time shrugging off something where the performers are clearly having fun. Kane and Bryan are obviously having a blast out there and when it comes together in a good match, like tonight's against Rhodes Scholars, I finally see what all the fuss is about. I'm still incredibly skeptical of WWE doing anything serious with the tag division, but if they are, Hell No is the team to build it around.

I generally hate whenever the Royal Rumble doesn't close the show, but this year, it made sense, Punk vs. Rock is just too big. Now, when it comes to the Rumble, if I'm "reviewing" the match itself, it was superb, one of the best ever. If I'm looking at the WrestleMania implications, I'm not so sure.

But yeah, the match was wonderful. Dolph Ziggler almost going the distance, Chris Jericho's OMG! return, the red-hot crowd, it was just an excellent showing. Or how about Goldust FINALLY trading punches with his little brother? And Godfather getting the Santino treatment, but giving no fucks? Or Kofi Kingston doing it again and using an office chair as a pogo stick?

I don't think anyone watches the Rumble expecting a technical wrestling clinic, we watch for the anticipation of the next entrant, the surprises, the drama, the near-eliminations, the "who's gonna win?!" factor and this year had it all in spades. I'm not completely sold on John Cena winning since it was brutally obvious and I'm starting to get serious Cena fatigue, but I'm willing to see where this whole "2013 = THE YEAR OF CENA!" thing goes.

I was hoping for Ryback to win as I did think Ryback dethroning Punk at WrestleMania would create a mega-star, but I also can see how the ship may have sailed there. Not that Ryback is a lost cause or anything, but I don't know if that particular story had the legs to get to April 7.

What transpired in the main event doesn't help with my apprehension for the future, but again, if I'm just talking about the match, CM Punk vs. The Rock was just lovely. Not counting Survivor Series 2011, which was essentially an infomercial for WrestleMania, this was The Rock's second match in nearly a decade, but THIS was what I expected from his return. This wasn't the movie star coming back for one more match, this was The Rock we saw wrestle every week in the 90s, warts and all.

The Rock is not, nor has he ever been a technical wizard, but he does bring a certain energy to the squared circle that is unrivaled. That energy was sorely lacking from his match with Cena last year, but I think even he realized that and did what he had to do to fix it. Obviously Punk has the ability to bring out the best in his opponents, which he clearly did tonight, but you shouldn't discredit The Rock. "Big fight feel" gets thrown around a lot, but it is an apt description of this match.

I was not a fan of the shenanigans at the end though. Obviously The Shield had to make some sort of impact, but restarting the match only to have The Rock win exactly how he was going to before the lights went out just seemed unnecessary. Obviously it gives Punk a legitimate gripe and perhaps sets up a Triple Threat at WrestleMania, so I'll reserve final judgment in terms of storytelling, but it did throw off the match.

But hey, The Rock is WWE Champion, that's weird, right? And John Cena won the Rumble, so you know what that means. I really wasn't a fan of their match last year, but if a sequel is the planned main event, I suspect we'll get something special this time around, especially if this Rock shows up.

I am not upset about Punk losing the belt, his record is set in stone and it's possible it will never be duplicated, but I'm not surprised the Twittersphere does not agree with the decision. I'm already hearing the usual gripes that Cena doesn't "need" the title, Rock vs. Cena doesn't "need" to be for the belt, let guys who "need" it fight for the belt, etc.

I'm sorry, but the notion of someone not needing a title makes said title useless. That's part of the problem with everyone else being a rung below the Cenas and Rocks of the world, them not "needing" the titles, makes the titles beneath them. If Rock and Cena II is the biggest match possible, then it needs to be for the belt, that elevates the title immensely, and eventually, the guy who beats one of them for it.

I understand and agree with the complaints that WWE needs to elevate new guys, they absolutely do, but when the option to have The Rock wrestle is there and the crowd is still responding, why not take advantage? This isn't WCW circa 1998 with an aging roster stinking up the main event scene while the truly talented guys are spinning their wheels in hour 1. The Rock showed tonight he can still go and while I'm tired of Cena's character, very few people can outperform him in a big match situation.

So it may not be the match you want to see (if it does happen as it's shaping up), but shrugging Rock off as "the actor" after this performance is unfair and not expecting WWE to put on the biggest match possible at their premiere event is just naive. Work needs to be done to get it there, but if you want titles and main events to matter, it's probably the right call.

So while I'm not sure where we are heading into WrestleMania, I am sure that this show was fantastic from top to bottom. It helps that there were only four matches, but with one of them being a terrific Royal Rumble match, the best in recent years (regardless of feelings on the winner), and a tremendous main event, it was definitely a case of quality over quantity.


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

WWE Raw 20 - January 14, 2013

20 years of Raw... I had a lot more hair back in 93.

I really dug the theme song montage, and I don't miss Nickelback even a little bit.

Vince McMahon started the evening with his obligatory milestone appearance to set up the evening. I honestly don't know why he just doesn't re-join the commentary team. His excitement still shows, you know he's back there telling Michael Cole what to say anyway, why not just lead the commentary and set the tone for the show every week?

Big Show interrupted, angry about losing the World Championship to Alberto Del Rio, but unlike most of these incidents, he was quickly put in his place by Vince. It was a fun dynamic, Big Show playing sniveling employee to his boss was rather amusing... is there a more versatile actor in WWE than Big Show?

I never thought Alberto Del Rio's shtick would work as a good guy, but that's just how good he is, I suppose... I dug the new Mexican flag-inspired tights too. Del Rio was clearly having a blast and while this went on way too long to get to its eventual point (shocker, they're having a rematch at the Rumble), Del Rio and Show played off each other really well and Vince just standing there glaring was funny.

"Jerry Lawler has been here for... most of the Raws." Let's just all forget about that brief vacation he took, aka marriage.

Wade Barrett vs. Randy Orton was our opening contest, and it was a typical Orton match. Normally, that would be bad, but perhaps since I've been away from WWE, specifically Smackdown, for awhile, it didn't bother me as much as usual. A slow, methodically paced match, but both guys got to be in control and they had plenty of time to work with, a benefit of the three hour time slot. A clean win for Wade Barrett was downright shocking though, a very uncharacteristic move, especially for a Raw match, where I'd wager Orton is nearly undefeated.

"I like that he can set things on fire by lowering his arms somehow." Well, that alone made revisiting Kane & Daniel Bryan's therapy sessions worth it.

Kane vs. Damien Sandow made sense, Hell No and Rhodes Scholars have a title match scheduled for the Rumble, but c'mon, you know you wanted to see Sandow vs. Bryan. A short match, highlighted by Michael Cole saying Sandow was treated like "Pavlov's Dog," but a quick and easy win for Kane.

And Mick Foley is your first inductee in the 2013 WWE Hall of Fame, a well-deserved and overdue honor for one of my all-time favorites. Foley was gearing up for a speech when he was quickly interrupted by The Shield, but Foley gearing up for a fight he knew he would lose was probably the best possible summation of his career.

But before Rollins, Reigns and Ambrose could strike, Ryback made the save, only to fall victim himself. So Randy Orton made the assist too, followed by Sheamus, which would've made a fun six-man tag, but instead Ryback remained in the ring for an interview with Josh Mathews and dude was PIIIIIISSED. Since Ryback is my favorite to win the Rumble, I expect he will tear them apart at some point in the match.

Gimmick montage was fun, anytime I get a Man Mountain Rock reference, a Naked Mideon clip and "HE'S A MAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN!" I'm a happy guy.

Kaitlyn defeated Eve for the Divas Championship after speculation that Eve is leaving the company. We call that "Pulling a Hardy," where I'm from, leaving after you finally get a big break. 2013 is her sixth year though, so I suppose she was approaching her Divas Expiration Date™. Good Divas match though, and the crowd was into it, which always helps. This is what's frustrating, WWE has the tools to present an exciting Divas division, they just don't.

Brodus Clay took umbrage with CM Punk's "shuck and jive" comments last week, so hey, the two are gonna fight. I miss that, little side stories playing out, Bret Hart's WWE Title reign was always loaded with stuff like that. The champ doesn't have to fight another main eventer or be put in a tag match every week, let him work down the card and give folks something different. This is precisely what I was asking for last week when wondering why they constantly use Santino as an underdog challenger.

I have little interest in Brodus Clay, his gimmick wore out its welcome about two minutes after it debuted, but I really liked him in this role. He looked believable against CM Punk, but Punk got to do things a little differently and look more dominant than he would in a typical main event situation. He couldn't hit Orton with the flying elbow and make him tap to the Anaconda Vice without all sorts of dramatics, but he could here. Well done.

Rock n Sock reunion was a rare backstage skit worth watching. Foley's lovable teddy bear quality helps bring down The Rock's douchebaggery considerably.

Sheamus vs. 3MB in a 3-on-1 handicap top rope challenge was quite unfortunate, I feel like we haven't had to deal with handicap matches for awhile. I'm so torn on 3MB because they pull off unbearable cock-knockers so well, but good God, their segments have to be among the most inconsequential in wrestling today. Slater actually won the match, but does that really do anything for anybody? The crowd's collective "..." said it all.

Poor Miz. While I do think Miz TV is a good idea for him, he is teetering dangerously close to reverting back to his original WWE job: random hype man. Regardless, I'm not going to cry when Ric Flair is on my TV in any capacity.

BTW, why are there couches on Miz TV when the host and guest sit in director's chairs?

Naitch was in rare form and him and Miz were clearly having fun together, even though they were both nervous as hell. I can understand Miz, but I still get sad whenever I see Naitch still get nervous after all this team, he clearly still feels like he has something to prove, which is bizarre when you are the greatest of all-time.

After some fun, Antonio Cesaro interrupted, saying Miz and Flair sum up America so well: a failed reality star hosting a talk show with a champion who made $10 million, but spent $30 million. That actually is a pretty good summation, actually... just needed a morbidly obese gun nut and we'd be all set!

Flair lit Cesaro up with some chops, Miz hit Skullcrusher Mountain and Flair let Miz lock in the Figure 4. How cool must that have been for Miz and Cesaro?

Cody Rhodes vs. Daniel Bryan made sense with Kane vs. Sandow earlier in the night, but I was shocked Bryan won so quickly and easily. I assume next week Sandow vs. Bryan and Rhodes vs. Kane? Maybe? Please? I really wanna see Sandow vs. Bryan.

Jim Ross joining commentary for the main event made me really happy.

How weird that last night was Dolph Ziggler's first cage match? I assume he probably had one as a Spirit Squad member, but I wouldn't blame anyone for blocking as much of the Spirit Squad from memory as possible.

I admit to Cena/Ziggler fatigue, but you gotta grant that they work well together and at least we got a steel cage out of it, Ziggler turning the slingshot into a chance to climb the cage was awesome. As was his dropkick on the ropes... no, not off the ropes, on the ropes. Someone give this guy the World Title already.

Can we again mention how Cena is a freak of nature? Climbing the ropes while Ziggler was on his back with the sleeper applied? We've seen similar feats before and it didn't look particularly impressive because Cena made it look so easy. That's a 220+ lbs. man on his back and he's climbing a damn cage? I get winded when I carry a backpack to my car.

Big drama at the end of the match made it really exciting, perhaps the most near falls - or near escapes - that I've ever seen in a cage match and that DDT from Ziggler off the top rope... yes, DDT OFF THE TOP ROPE was NASTY~! But of course, Cena won, despite all sorts of shenanigans from Big E. Langston and AJ King-Konging the cage.

The match spotlighted WWE's big issues: a new coat of paint didn't change the fact that we're still seeing the same thing with the same result. I think I've been pretty patient with Cena always winning over the years, but this was just "eh, okay, you've already done this 8 bajillion times in the last three months." This show, wrestling-wise, was superb, but the fact remains that in a lot of ways, WWE's wheels are still just spinning in the mud. And much like in My Cousin Vinny, it makes me want to scream "WHAT THE FUCK?!"

Our final segment of the evening was the Rock Concert featuring... Man Mountain Rock!

C'mon, you know it would've made the show better.

The Rock did his thing: Paul Heyman is fat and has a little dick, name-dropped famous people he knows (Dusty Hill from ZZ Top in this case), and then made fun of poor Vickie Guerrero in front of her fellow Texans... what an asshole. At least he didn't call her fat though, that's progress in the world of WWE and Vickie's reaction to "Horrible Tonight" was priceless. She is the greatest of sports.

The tone shifted when Rock called out Punk, but in an interesting twist, it was the bad guy who rushed the ring and took the fight to Rocky. Yet another thing that makes Punk so unique and it was nice to see they're not afraid to buck tradition a little more with the whole "guys in a dream match can't touch before said match." Good way to close the show.

I loved this Raw. They didn't rely too much on nostalgia, there was no token Sgt. Slaughter appearance, but the video packages were well done and existing stories moved forward... except Cena/Ziggler. But honestly, that and the 3MB nonsense were my only gripes with the show. A bad ending and one throwaway match on a three hour show though? That's a pretty good average. Getting VERY excited for The Rumble, Rock vs. Punk very well could be legendary and honestly, the first match in WWE history that I wouldn't mind if it went on after the Royal Rumble itself.


Saturday, January 12, 2013

Spoiled!

I caught the last 20 minutes of Smackdown last night, and I haven't watched Smackdown regularly in over a year. I actually made it a point to get home to turn it on so I could see the main event.

Why? Because WWE gave away the massive ending - Alberto Del Rio defeated Big Show in a Last Man Standing Match for the World Heavyweight Title. This isn't the first time they've done something like this, it's not even the first time in the last two weeks, they gave away Wade Barrett's Intercontinental Title win, and I'm sure it won't be the last, but it worked well last night.

I certainly don't think this is something WWE should make a habit out of, because I'm generally a surprise-oriented guy, I like to be wowed. but they had the right idea here. Had they not spoiled it, I wouldn't have known about it until this morning. I don't read dirt sheets anymore, I don't visit wrestling websites that would post anything like that and I don't live on Twitter these days either. So in this case, WWE got me to tune in.

Sometimes a spoiler can take me out of a match, I couldn't imagine enjoying the Royal Rumble if I already knew the winner, and I wouldn't want to watch WrestleMania a day late if I knew the results. But for a Smackdown that I wouldn't have watched anyway? It gets people tuning in, restores (at least temporarily) the notion that big things can and do happen on Smackdown, and perhaps most importantly, could boost ticket sales. If someone wasn't thinking of going to Smackdown because it's just the taped show, now they may be more inclined to show up.

From most accounts, WWE executed this title change well, they just need to wait a few years before doing it again.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

WWE Raw - January 7, 2013

Hello there. New year, new Raw, new blog? With election season out of the way (I'm a bit of a political junkie, which is why Kick-Out!! launched just after the 08 election), I feel like it's time to come back home. Real life is still busy (I was also unemployed when KO!! launched), but I hate being one of those people who say "OMG SO BUSY!" whenever someone asks them how they are.

The reality is, I'm not that busy, but when I get home from work and wrestling feels like a chore, that was my cue to step back. I wake up every morning at 4:30 a.m. (just like The Rock!), so staying up till 11:15 p.m. to watch Raw is just brutal, especially when it hasn't been very good. But we're entering the Road to WrestleMania and I think I found the right balance to watching Raw, so Kick-Out!! is back. 


I toyed with the idea of doing a big relaunch, complete with new graphics and design, and may still do that if anyone has good ideas for a "freshening up," but otherwise, let's just pretend we never left each other, okay?


As for my new method of watching Raw, since WWE and USA seem intent on keeping Raw at a grueling three hours a week, I think I'm going to watch the first 90 minutes live, then catch the second half of the show Tuesday afternoon on DVR. It worked well for this week's show, so let's get on with it.


John Cena promises to make 2013 the best year of his career, but if that's the case, he got off  to a really lousy start. Good God, that promo was atrocious and talking about "weiner jokes" and poop? It's like the dude is devolving. Look, I'm not above lowbrow humor, I thought "JBL is poopy" was hilarious because it was so randomly absurd, but that kind of joke has become a staple of Cena's character, and it's fucking lame. 


I realize Cena is a hero to children and they've embraced the fact that his appeal is among women and kids, but that doesn't mean you have to make him a kid. It's like Patton Oswalt's bit about the Star Wars prequels: just because kids love Darth Vader and Boba Fett, it doesn't mean we want to see Darth Vader and Boba Fett as kids. Kids love John Cena, they don't have to love him because he is an overgrown manchild. John Cena is a professional, I've seen him wear a suit and speak intelligently, he personally told me that when he retires he wants to be a history teacher, his character doesn't have to be an emotionally-stunted fecophiliac. And keep in mind, I've always been a fan of the guy, but last night, he was just unbearable.


Now luckily, he made up for it with a fantastic match against Dolph Ziggler. WWE always seems to pride itself on having kick-ass matches to start the New Year, and 2013 was no exception. I know folks were pissed about Cena winning, and it probably wasn't wise to have Ziggler lose even with interference from Big E Smalls, but unless it's a match where the bad guy can't lose, like when Miz defended the title against John Morrison in 2011, there's no harm in starting the year off with a cheering crowd.


Will you get mad at me if I don't bother writing about Divas matches? I'll give them the exact amount of attention WWE does: none.


Also, will you be upset if I don't bother with the endless backstage filler segments? There's only so many times you can write "Sheamus talked backstage, he's up next" before it just gets repetitive. The backstage skit is really a trope that needs to die, but when you have three hours to fill, I guess they're not going anywhere.


Hell No vs. Rhodes Scholars was pretty good, Kane & Daniel Bryan have to be one of the best odd couple tag teams that never win matches in WWE history. I'm still not really sure what the endgame is here, if they're good guys or bad guys, or where they fit into the show after their inevitable split, but it's been a pretty fun ride. Rhodes Scholars are great too and they're two guys who you could build a division around because I want to see them get their asses kicked. Now, whether WWE puts enough stock in the tag division that there's a reason to care about its participants remains to be seen, but this is the best it's been since JeriShow. Nowhere near that in terms of quality, but it's something.


Is there anything more amusing in WWE right now than the unpush of Randy Orton? The guy's been shoved down our throats for nine years and we've finally realized that once he's wrestled the entire roster, there's not really anything to do with him. No one wants to the "epic rematch" between Orton and anybody, so he's pretty much become "dude to throw in a six-man tag or jobber squash," which is why he got to beat up on poor Heath Slater. Obviously Slater had no chance of winning this match, so dragging it out as long as they did annoyed me.


Speaking of pointless, why the hell was Ricky Steamboat in Santino's corner against Wade Barrett? I can't imaging there's going to be a Steamboat/Barrett match, unless it's a clever way to bring in Richie, which would, admittedly, be rad. Regardless, putting Steamboat with Santino was just silly... why is Santino the go-to guy when they need a plucky underdog against a dominant bad guy? They get it all backwards, they put bad guys with no chance in hell against guys like Orton, but they rarely give the little good guys a shot at guys way above their pay grade. That dynamic can make a little guy into a star, remember when Rikishi faced Triple H for the WWE Title and it basically made him a main eventer overnight? There are a ton of guys on the roster they could do that with, but instead they use Santino, who they've made abundantly clear is never ever ever going to get any sort of serious push.


Antonio Cesaro vs. Great Khali was my cut-off for live Raw viewing. Obviously this match happened for no other reason that to show off Cesaro's ability to hit Khali with The Neutralizer for the benefit of the majority of the audience that doesn't watch Main Event. Although wouldn't it have been more effective to use that in a video package and just talk up Cesaro as a legitimate badass? I know, you would think I would advocate for more wrestling, but this is a case where less is more, and throwing some roses at Cesaro's feet would stand out from "piss break match #4." Minor gripe, because I shouldn't complain when Cesaro's in the ring, but I do think they have something legitimately special on their hands with him and they should do something different. Video package + old school stage interview would've been fun.


And really, did we really need Sheamus vs. Jinder Mahal? By my count, 3MB were involved in FOUR segments last night and each one was them getting humiliated. Yeah, Heath Slater is the best Jobber to the Stars in the industry right now, but this was overkill. And Mahal lasted way too long against Sheamus, which I'm sure some folks will say helped, but if you never win, it won't do any good. 


I thought for sure they'd find some way to get out of CM Punk vs. Ryback in a TLC match, or it would be really low impact, but holy hell, those two hurt each other. I think it's pretty obvious why CM Punk has been WWE Champion for 415 days, the dude works his ass off... but he doesn't do it for you losers.


This was just a fantastic match that may have been another case of WWE painting themselves into a corner and needing The Shield to get them out, but it worked. They can still keep up their ruse that it has nothing to do with helping Punk, just stamping out injustice (why does Ryback deserve another shot, especially when Punk isn't 100%), and it'll work well when they keep The Rock from winning at the Rumble (what has he done to earn it?). 


Oh and that powerbomb through the table, onto the steps was NASTY~!


I was fast-forwarding through commercials on my DVR and by the time I picked the remote back up to hit play, the Big Show vs. Kofi Kingston match was over. So much for that reinvigorated Kofi.


CM Punk's latest "pipe bomb" was far and away the best mic work he's done since the infamous night in Las Vegas. His bleak, cynical, "none of this matters, so I'm just going to try to make you people as miserable as possible" rant against the Universe was expertly executed and really summed up a lot of my problems with WWE right now. He's right, while there's still plenty of fun to be had on these shows, most of it ultimately doesn't matter because the glaring problems with the industry still exist. CM Punk is champion in spite of you, I'm watching in spite of the problems, whether true change is on the way remains to be seen, but at least this particular part of the ride is fun.


The Rock was his usual self, only took about 20 seconds to say "scrotum" and threaten to sodomize CM Punk with an ice cream truck, but he had his moments. When he put his serious face on, he was good and seeing him work with someone completely unfazed by the "Rockisms" was a breath of fresh air that hasn't been seen in at least a decade, probably longer, and it made The Rock better.


All that said, I know it's only January 8, but no one is going to beat "your arms are too short to box with God" as the quote of the year.


Overall, two great matches and an excellent finale made Raw with the journey. But these three hours are still hell to wade through and when you have to rely on 3MB for four segments, you just don't have the roster to keep going at this pace.